digital

Heritage and Identity: Setting up a new Public Archaeology project…

Despite a broken ankle, life goes on. Today I am working on the set-up of a new project I have just started at the UCL Institute of Archaeology, in London, UK, with colleagues Prof. Richard Hingley and Dr. Tom Yarrow from the Archaeology and Anthropology Departments at Durham University.

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Broken but scooter-aided researcher (me) goes to work.

This is a really exciting new adventure, especially in these times of heated debate over what it means to be English, British, European or (as I regard myself) simply (?) a world citizen with roots in all those great and diverse places where you are lucky enough to have family, friends and colleagues.

The project is called ‘Iron Age and Roman Heritages: Exploring ancient identities in modern Britain‘, and is funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council for a period of three years. Through this research we are hoping to understand how Iron Age, Roman and Early Medieval pasts live in present-day Britain. How are they researched, variously used, performed and interpreted by different individuals and groups, and why? What are the implications?

The project is divided in two parts which will run in parallel until 2019. One is based at UCL, where I will be focussing on the analysis of digital heritages (Dan Pett, from the British Museum, Andy Bevan and Mark Altaweel, from UCL, are also helping!); the second part, led by Richard and Tom in Durham, is centred on offline ethnography.

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Boadicea at Westmister Bridge, London, England.

During the project, we will also invite whoever might be interested in participating in our research to do so online, through the MicroPasts crowdsourcing website, which is indeed still up, running … and busy! In October, I will visit Daniel Lombrana-Gonzales and his team, in Madrid, and, together, we will create a new crowdsourcing application to aid the analysis of web data. People will be able to login and identify (via tagging) the aspects of Iron Age and Roman pasts that appear in a range of texts that are published online like newspaper or magazine articles, for example.

So, stay on the look, we’d love you to join the team!

Chiara

@Kia_Bon

 

A day managing the Scottish Archaeological Research Framework

The day in the ScARF office begins with tea and the newest member of the team reading our old Day of Archaeology posts from 2012 and 2015 (if you haven’t read them, they can be found at http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/friday-fun-in-the-scarf-office-part-1/ and http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/friday-fun-in-the-scarf-part-2/ and finally http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/scarf-is-3-years-old/ . Since the last #dayofarch, the ScARF team has doubled in size and so now we are two people, making just over 1 full time post. This means that we can split ourselves easily between archaeology and museums work, as part of the plan for the future is to better integrate existing museum collections with trying to answer existing research recommendations, which so far have tended to be born out of pure archaeological thinking.

There won’t actually be much time for me to read #dayofarch posts today though, that will likely be a task for the bus home. Being part time means you have to use every office minute to its advantage and you often feel like reading blog posts and similar isn’t ‘real work’, even if they do have value! One I can read legitimately, though, is the post for today from Anna our Museums Officer at http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/dispatches-from-edinburgh-scarf-project-museums-part-1/.  Instead, today will mainly be about three things:

  1. Future Thinking on Scotlands Carved Stones – a major new panel report for ScARF
  2. The ScARF student network
  3. Admin tasks
Future Thinking on Scotlands' Carved Stones - a screenshot of the yet to be released resource

Future Thinking on Scotlands’ Carved Stones – a screenshot of the yet to be released resource

Firstly, getting the newest addition to the ScARF panel report family up online. Future Thinking on Scotlands Carved Stones (http://www.scottishheritagehub.com/content/future-thinking-carved-stones-scotland ) is due for release at the end of next month and will mark the culmination of work by a group of over fifty people led by Dr Sally Foster, Dr Katherine Forsyth, Stuart Jeffrey and Susan Buckham. I didn’t contribute to the writing of the report, but my job was to advise on structure and to put the text and images online and link everything together, as well as to link to other existing ScARF sections where appropriate. This means some HTML work, as simply copying and pasting leaves a horrible proprietary mess in the code, and then some design work to fit the images into the text nicely. Very similar, in fact, to what I appear to have been doing for the 2012 #dayofarch post.  I’ve blocked off most of the day to work on Carved Stones because it needs focus and concentration so I can’t let myself get distracted by other ScARF bits at the same time.

Exciting as the work on the new stones panel is, I don’t have time to spend all today on it. It’s already made up the bulk of my work over the past three weeks. So, after a no-break-desk-lunch, I plan on quietly putting the stones to one side and begin the never-ending task of project admin. Mostly replying to emails, you do know archaeological project management is pure glamour, right? Some emails will be routine and won’t need much time spent on them, some I can see from the subject line are to do with new archaeological research so they will get marked to explore properly later, and recently it seems quite a lot are related to some of our upcoming panel meetings so I will be sure to answer them straight away.

Trowelblazer Lottie had planned on helping out for the day but instead despairs at the increasing amount of post it notes

Trowelblazer Lottie had planned on helping out for the day but instead despairs at the increasing amount of post it notes

After that block of admin, it will be time for some Friday Fun and telling the world about some of the work we have supported recently. Over the past few months, ScARF has provided student bursaries to attend archaeological conferences. In return, each student had to submit a short report to us about their time there as well as a promise that ScARF can use their research, if appropriate, to help update the framework questions and recommendations. The reports received so far can all be found at http://www.socantscot.org/category/student-report/ and cover a diverse range of topics including prehistoric beekeeping, iron age object deposition, re-evaluation of insular metalwork from Pagan-Norse graves, Medieval cetacean consumption and Iron Age equestrianism, so something for everyone! I have a few new reports to put up this afternoon from the 14C and Archaeology conference (http://www.c14archaeology2016.com/) that recently took place in Edinburgh, so if science and archaeology is your thing then take a look at the reports section later today. After that, I need to write to all the bursary recipients and see if they want to take up the offer of Society Fellowship (you can find out more about that at http://www.socantscot.org/join-us/ ).

I plan on spending some time towards the end of the day working on my papers for the European Association of Archaeologists conference, which is at the end of next month. If you are interested, then ScARF and the Society have papers about digital publication and archiving in session TH3-11 , and open access in session TH3-03.   In a previous life, writing papers usually took place in the evenings and weekends. However, now I’m in my thirties and have responsibilities other than work, so paper writing has to take place during the working day. This is a good example of how, four years on from my first #dayofarch post, how I can/have to spend my day at work has changed even if some of the actual work is the same.

An aside: Writing this post has also made me realise how my views on working in archaeology have changed over the past four years since the first post. In those four years, I have had three different jobs (not all archaeological, and none until now more than a 12 month contract) and become a parent. Archaeology (and therefore work) used to be the all consuming thing in life, and I was quite happy to give all my hours/life to it (Hello Silchester!) but life happens and things change. Some of the best posts from previous years are those that truly reflect on what a job/career archaeology is about and how it is rarely a smooth ride (I particularly like http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/once-an-archaeologist-plan-b-careers-in-archaeology/, http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/a-career-in-ruins/, http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/working-hard-or-hardly-working/ and recently http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/a-transition-period-in-life/). I think #dayofarch is a great way for people to reflect on archaeology as a career (whether they are already working in archaeology or not) and provides an invaluable and real insight to a world that, despite what some would have you believe, isn’t all Lego, Minecraft, or easy digging in the sunshine. </endrant>

The very last hour or so of the day of archaeology will be about planning the next few months. We are working in our plans for Orkney and Aberdeenshire museums visits as well as updating panel reports and working with commercial units to keep on top of the current archaeological picture in Scotland. This is the first time writing for #dayofarch that I’ve known I’ll still be working on ScARF for the next one, so I love the opportunity to really get stuck into the work and planning is a big part of that. It’ll be out with the diary, fix some dates and then head home – to read lots more #dayofarch posts en route!

Preparations for Archaeology Month in the City of Brotherly Love Philadelphia, PA

By Ryan Rasing

STAR “Students Tackling Advanced Research” Scholars Program

Digital Media Department, Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design

Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America

I am a freshman studying Game Art and Production at the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design, Drexel University. This summer I am participating in the STAR (Students Tackling Advanced Research) Scholars Program. Working under Associate Professor Dr. Glen Muschio. Today I am storyboarding two Public Service Announcements (PSAs). One PSA is for a Philadelphia archaeology event open to the public, the other is to announce Pennsylvania’s Archaeology Month, set for October this year. The PSA’s will be shown on a giant LED screen on the 27th floor of the PECO (Philadelphia Electric Company) Building in Center City, Philadelphia.

Philadelphia PSA Draft Screenshot

One of the PSAs will show Philadelphia’s skyline rising above layers of stratigraphy. Selected 3D artifacts will begin to move across the screen superimposed over the skyline/stratigraphy background. As the artifacts exit the frame, text follows announcing, “Explore Philadelphia’s Buried Past 10/10 http://www.phillyarchaeology.org/”.  The PSA will run 30 seconds in length and will be shown on the PECO Crown Lights for 3 days in October.

The second PSA will also feature 3D models of archaeological artifacts from the Independence National Historical Park’s collection. Last week I assisted Digital Media grad student Jonnathan Mercado in scanning and photographing artifacts selected by INHP Chief Historian and archaeologist Jed Levin.

Inspecting artifacts at the Independence National Historical Park
Inspecting artifacts at the Independence National Historical Park (From Left: Jonnathan Mercado, Ryan Rasing, Jed Levin)
Working on the PSA
Working on the PSA

 

 

Archiving Ipswich

Two years after posting about my work on the Silbury Hill digital archive, in ‘AN ADS DAY OF ARCHAEOLOGY’, and I’m still busy working as a Digital Archivist with the ADS!

For the past few months, I have been working on the Ipswich Backlog Excavation Archive, deposited by Suffolk County Council, which covers 34 sites, excavated between 1974 and 1990.

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Excavation at St Stephen’s Lane, Ipswich 1987-1988

To give a quick summary of the work so far, the data first needed to be accessioned into our systems which involved all of the usual checks for viruses, removing spaces from file names, sorting the data into 34 separate collections and sifting out duplicates etc.  The archive packages were then created which involved migrating the files to their preservation and dissemination formats and creating file-level metadata using DROID.  The different representations of the files were linked together using object ids in our database and all of the archiving processes were documented before the coverage and location metadata were added to the individual site collections.

Though time consuming, due to the quantity of data, this process was fairly simple as most of the file names were created consistently and contained the site code.  Those that didn’t have descriptive file names could be found in the site database and sorted according to the information there.

The next job was to create the interfaces; again, this was fairly simple for the individual sites as they were made using a template which retrieves the relevant information from our database allowing the pages to be consistent and easily updateable.

The Ipswich Backlog Excavation Archive called for a more innovative approach, however, in order to allow the users greater flexibility with regards to searching, so the depositors requested a map interface as well as a way to query information from their core database.  The map interface was the most complex part of the process and involved a steep learning curve for me as it involved applications, software and code that I had not previously used such as JavaScript, OpenLayers, GeoServer and QGIS.  The resulting map allows the user to view the features excavated on the 34 sites and retrieve information such as feature type and period as well as linking through to the project archive for that site.

OpenLayers map of Ipswich excavation sites.

OpenLayers map of Ipswich excavation sites.

So, as to what I’m up to today…

The next, and final step, is to create the page that queries the database.  For the past couple of weeks I have been sorting the data from the core database into a form that will fit into the ADS object tables, cleaning and consolidating period, monument and subject terms and, where possible, matching them to recognised thesauri such as the English Heritage Monument Type Thesaurus.

Today will be a continuation of that process and hopefully, by the end of the day, all of the information required by the query pages will be added to our database tables so that I can begin to build that part of the interface next week.  If all goes to plan, the user should be able to view specific files based on searches by period, monument/feature type, find type, context, site location etc. with more specialist information, such as pottery identification, being available directly from the core database tables which will be available for download in their entirety.  Fingers crossed that it does all go to plan!

So, that’s my Day of Archaeology 2015, keep a look out for ADS announcements regarding the release of the Ipswich Backlog Excavation Archive sometime over the next few weeks and check out the posts from my ADS colleagues Jo Gilham and Georgie Field!

Digital Archaeology isn’t just Scanning

Connor Rowe, Center for Digital Archaeology, Mukurtu CMS. Today is the Day of Archaeology, in which archaeologists around the world blog about this day in the life of an archaeologist. Now my background is in cultural anthropology and digital media, but I happen to work with a team of archaeologists at the Center for Digital Archaeology here at UC Berkeley, so I tend to jump on the archaeological wagon, especially when it intersects with the digital world. Hence my participation in #DayofArch 2013.

Browsing through digital heritage inside Mukurtu CMS.

Browsing through digital heritage inside Mukurtu CMS.

My current project is Mukurtu CMS, an open-source digital archive originally intended for (and created by) indigenous communities to collect and share their (digital, digitized, and intangible) cultural heritage, on their own terms. It is built on Drupal 7, and attempts to remain community-based in its development process (yes, this is as hard as it sounds). We’ve been supported by generous NEH, IMLS, and university grants, which help us, first, eat, and, second, continue this project for little or no cost to interested communities (notwithstanding Congressional budget cuts…). These grants have allowed us to produce complementary tools, e.g., Mukurtu Mobile, an iOS (and soon, Android) app, and work on projects as varied as museum exhibits and school science curricula. My work consists primarily of community support, software and installation upkeep, and facilitation of internal and external communication. I also get to fly around the continents and help communities implement digital preservation workflows on site.

Pondering bugs in the Treehouse

Pondering bugs in the Treehouse

Today, however, I am in our sunny Berkeley treehouse office, listening to the quiet chirping of birds, leaf blowers, and jack hammers (the archaeological offices surround BP’s new capital investment), staring at lines of code trying, somewhat successfully, to fix a problem reported by a community using Mukurtu in New Zealand. Time zones make it a little difficult to collaborate in real time, but it adds to the sense that the work I’m doing is globally worthwhile. My work in this aspect of digital archaeology, what might be termed digital cultural heritage preservation and management, is a rewarding niche of archaeological work. It allows me to empower others in the face of expectations of steep digital learning curves, manage their own heritage, and make sure that history is not lost, but rather shared. It allows me to build and learn code, while also paying attention to cultural relevancy. There is responsibility tied to certain knowledge, sacred stories, and ancestors. By building, maintaining, and supporting Mukurtu, I help communities retain control over how their heritage is distributed. As Kim of Team Mukurtu (below) would say it, “does all information want to be free?

Team Mukurtu:
Kim Christen, Project Director and persona behind @mukurtu
Michael Ashley, Development Director and Chief Technology Officer of the Center for Digital Archaeology, @lifeisnotstill
Chacha Sikes, Lead Engineer, @chachasikes
and me, Connor Rowe, Service Manager, @mrthebutler

Games – and possibly a little fun

My desk at work, English Heritage, Savile Row, April 1989. Photo: Janet E Davis

The box behind the lamp was my 1st work PC, at English Heritage in Savile Row, London, April 1989. Photo: Janet E Davis.

Today is a day when the paid work that I’m doing is something I cannot tell you much about yet. I can tell you that it involves a museum, and creating and trying out a game using very current digital technology.  It will be available to the public soon – if I can work out how get things to display as I want.

I have been using computers for different purposes in cultural heritage since 1986. A computer is a very useful tool in archaeology, possibly more essential than the more familiar trowel and spade in the 21st century. The computer in the photograph on the right was my first work computer. It was 3 years old when I took the photograph, and I used it for 3 years after that. I used it to create spreadsheets to help monitor progress on capital projects relating to the North of England sites in care. I also used it to keep track of information about the sites, write submissions for funding, and to develop long-term management planning tools. All the digital files were in that box under the monitor or on floppy disks.

Today, I have been working mostly in the Cloud (networked digital resources available through the Internet). Part of my work today included communicating digitally with someone in a museum hundreds of miles away who took a photograph and sent it to me within the same morning.

I searched the Web to obtain more information about the creator of the museum object in the photograph than had been available on the museum’s database. I was lucky. There was a connection with Scottish architecture, and there is a superb online resource about historical Scottish architects, landscape architects and similar professionals. Having found the additional information I wanted, I re-sized the image to reduce the file size, and uploaded the photograph through a website, adding caption and description.

Such tasks are part of the everyday work that create the wonderful online heritage resources.

It is not the most obviously exciting, Indiana Jones adventuring sort of work. It is, however, really cool. We are developing new ways of enabling more people to learn about and interact with their heritage. Best of all, today is one of the days when I have been working on subversive heritage learning. I want people to play games, have some fun, and not notice that they are learning about their heritage.